Sitting on inflatable thrones that are at the head of a dragon-shaped table, Apollo and Aurora calmly take in their surroundings. The white walls ripple like bubbles when a blast of air comes through the open skylight and carries away three stacks of napkins. A champagne fountain is in the corner, the bubbling liquid cascading down the marble tiers. Placed in the middle of the dance floor, a building-shaped cake and a giant pie spin around each other as if they are having a romantic dance. Caterpillars hang from the ceiling, their silky tethers glistening with a thin layer of dew. They repeatedly fire more strands across the room to create a colorful network that is inevitably destroyed when one of the sword-like ceiling fans turns on. The twins turn at the same time to see a tiny raven standing on the switch, the bird moving it whenever it tries to reach a bowl of grapes.
Arranged around the room, faceless and unclothed mannequins are posed to resemble party-goers. Most are sitting at the tables, but there are three couples frozen on the dance floor. The statues that make up the band never move even though loud music continues to flow out of the instruments. Wait staff hold empty platters above their heads, the only way to discern their purpose being the faint etching of a bowtie on their necks. The twins begin to pick out more bizarre scenes that have been mixed in with the mundane mannequins. Far to their left is one with a knife in its back, the couple next to it posed to look like they are ignoring their neighbor’s plight. Partially hidden by a plant, three statues appear to be engaging in sex with the one in the middle having its legs unnaturally wrapped around the other two. The most disturbing of all is a child sitting under a table, its hands tightly gripping two sparrows that have been crushed. It is the toothy grin and button eyes that make the image so unnerving since none of the other mannequins have faces.
“Play something sexier!” a voice shouts from every direction. The band rattles as they start a song that brings imagines of seedy strip clubs to the twins’ minds. “Something a little classier than that. I only have myself to blame for creating in a rush. To be fair, my dearly departed husband used to do this kind of stuff. Can someone be departed if they were never parted in the first place? Oh, I’ve probably ruined the mood by now. Just so excited that things are going to their climax and I don’t mean Duchess Contessa and the bellboys in the corner. The old girl sure knows how to work them legs.”
A drum roll starts and all of the mannequins turn their heads toward the desserts that have stopped spinning. The top tier of the cake splits to release a slender arm while the pie is punched through by a foot. Metal feet screeching on the polished floor, the tables spin away from each other and knock the dancing mannequins away. Doing their best to seductively slide out of the food, the two halves of a familiar woman escape their prisons and hop to the floor. With the left side wearing a devil girl outfit and the right dressed to resemble a pirate, Dawn’s pieces strike a pose as if they are done with the show. It takes a second for her to realize she is not whole, so she whistles to get the caterpillars to drop from the ceiling. The bugs cover her body and create a large cocoon that steadily shrinks until it is a narrow pillar. A door opens in the front just as Dawn breaks through the side and pulls a mirror out of the floor. She is wearing a tight red bodysuit with a sword on her hip and a pirate’s hat that has devil horns on the top, none of which seem to match.
“I thought we agreed on the costume,” she growls before kicking the mirror away. Holding up her hands as if she is about to do a puppet show, she knocks them together. “This is why we do rehearsals! I wanted to be a pirate, so which one of you two went devil. I don’t care if the tail makes my butt look smaller. Being a pirate goes perfectly with my eye. Not to mention I’m supposed to get a parrot. So, where in all of this unadulterated madness is my Cracker? Oh, I left him in the pie. Come on out, little one. Cracker want a Polly?”
Reaching under the table, Dawn drags the child mannequin out into the open and holds it up by the leg. A ten foot parrot emerges from the destroyed pie and grabs the statue in its beak before sinking back into the dessert. Stripping down a set of denim underwear, the smiling brunette heads for the cake and opens it like a closet. Various costumes are tossed over her shoulder and fly to one of the mannequins, which silently puts on the outfit. Frustration and impatience mounting, Dawn flips the table over and coos at the sight of a long-tailed suit and top hat. Quickly putting on the old-fashioned clothing, she checks her watermelon-sized pocket watch and playfully spins it as she approaches the twins.
“My apologies for all of those delays. It’s been years since I got to play hostess, so I’m a bit rusty,” Dawn explains, her left arm creaking as she moves it. Stepping over to the punch bowl, she pours some down her sleeve and shivers in delight. “Much better. Now, both of you must be wondering what is going on. I mean, your friends did and reacted accordingly. Yelling, running, begging, whimpering, and one of them even threatened me. We’re not going to have that problem since you two are special. In fact, all of this has been created to celebrate our no year reunion. I’m so happy I could cry, but then I’d ruin my makeup and have to kill people until I felt better.”
“Who are you?” Apollo finally asks, his voice distant and weak. Looking to his sister, he can tell that she is barely paying attention and is on the verge of falling asleep again. “This is another of our dreams, but we’re together. I don’t understand.”
“I would be happy to explain, but I have loyal minions for that,” their host casually replies while she ladles some punch into cups. Politely handing one to Apollo, she throws the other into Aurora’s face in an attempt to wake her up. “Nope, she has a gas problem. I’d try acid, but my mop ran away with my lawnmower. Now, I can answer the question about who I am. My name is Dawn Addison and I’m currently a Taurus, but was a Virgo until I was sixteen and a Leo for most of my twenties. Long ago, I was happily mad with my own hotel until my world fell apart because I discovered I was the center of it. Silly me for thinking it was someone else. Anyway, I’m all better now and my rebar only itches when a sneeze. Just kidding. I never sneeze. Where was I?”
“I have no idea.”
“Well, you’re no help.”
“Have you been in my head all this time?”
Dawn grabs Apollo by the cheeks and peers in his ear, her gold eyepatch turning in the damaged socket. “I don’t see myself in there, but then I could be lying. One could say I’m in your head, but I’ve been known to travel. The truth is that I know you better than you know yourself, but you’ve never heard of me. Not until recently, which is why we had to meet so quickly. Such a horrible young man that you never gave me a chance to make myself more presentable. Aw, but I can’t stay mad at you since you have a piece that I so desperately need and desire. How about a kiss?”
Straddling Apollo’s lap, Dawn presses her lips against his and snakes her tongue deep into his throat. Feeling a stabbing pain in his chest, he thrashes and flails in the hopes of knocking the woman away. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see that Aurora is doubling over and clutching her stomach. Dawn stretches an arm to catch the other twin and softly runs her fingers through the long tresses of cool hair. Angered by her touching his sister, Apollo tries to bite through their host’s aggressive tongue, but he receives an unexpected jolt of electricity. His body going limp and his eyes closing, he collapses in the inflatable throne, which gradually deflates and brings him to the floor. Placing Aurora next to her brother, Dawn takes a step back and pulls a list out of her back pocket.
“All pieces are ripe and accounted for,” she says as she makes two check marks. Holding up the piece of paper, she waits for a popcorn-scented gale to snatch the message and take it through the skylight. “I’m trusting all of you to do what you promised. Rewards have already been mailed out, my woolly friends. Now, bring the shepherdess home and let her do what she was born to do. The world must have gotten so boring without me. After all, there’s never any fun in normal.”